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Obi Emmanuel
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"Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word,  but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit." (Mark 4: 18 - 19).

Among the chokers of life mentioned here are:
#1 Anxieties 
#2 Riches 
#3 Pleasures of life

Most spiritual writers say that anxieties is the worst of the 3. If the other two choke the spiritual life out of you quick and easy, anxieties act like a giant python that wraps you in a deadly embrace and kill you by slow motion.

First identify the thorns choking your spiritual life and move away from them. For help: what occupies your thoughts 60% of the time? Health, Family, Money, Job, etc. Whatever it is, that is your treasure. That is probably what is choking your heart.

Now apply repeatedly the medicine of the word of God:
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4: 6 - 7 NLT).

Since God promises to provide you all the money you need, fight and conquer anxiety about money.
“For the love of money is the
root of all kinds of evil. Some
people, eager for money, have
wandered from the faith and
pierced themselves with
many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6: 10).

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"David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities.....
Then David, girt with a linen apron,
came dancing before the LORD with abandon....
Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. (2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19).

The entire passage of the first Reading today (2 Samuel 6: 12 - 15, 17 - 19) is a type and shadow of the Eucharistic liturgy where King David is the High Priest prefiguring Jesus Christ our Eternal High Priest. We know that David is a type of Christ.

Note the choice of vocabulary liturgical narrative:
David was dressed in a linen apron.
He sacrificed an ox and a fatling every six steps of the procession.
The crowd (all the House of Israel) blew the horn and shouted with joy as they processed with the Ark.
David danced before the Ark with abandon.
Acting like a priest, he offered burnt and peace offerings before the Lord.
David then blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Hosts.
Then came Communion time: David distributed among the entire people a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake. With this came the dismissal of the people. (Ite Missa est).

Why is David the man after God's heart? In spite of his moral weaknesses, David is humble and a repentant sinner. Saul who lost his kingship to David was a proud and unrepentant sinner. The sin of Saul, disobedience was described as similar to witchcraft and idolatry. David committed adultery with murder but God regarded it as a sin of weakness. When David was accused, he did not argue like Saul but acknowledged his sin. Thanks to his repentance, David left us Psalm 51, the most profound prayer of repentance.

God said of David: "He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock of my salvation!.....
Forever I will maintain my mercy for him; my covenant with him stands firm. " (Psalm 89: 27, 29).

David's legacy in the genealogy of Jesus Christ is a very important one.

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"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." (Mark 3: 24)

Today is Monday, 22nd January 2018, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time. Today is the beginning of the Week of Prayer by all Churches for Christian Unity. Today is also the Day of Prayer for the Protection of human life, especially Unborn Children.

Is there any connection between Christian Unity and Protection of human life? The key Scripture for today warns that "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." (Mark 3: 24).

The splinters of the Church in the 16th century brought about a worldview that gave birth to abortion and sexual license. Families are divided against themselves, churches against themselves, political parties against themselves. If the Church is one, don't you think that a unified strong voice against these evils will be effective?

Pray for Christian Unity. Pray for protection of human life.

"Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel." (Cf 2 Timothy 1: 10).

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“As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’  And at once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1: 16 – 18)

Notice how Simon and Andrew reacted to the call of Jesus.  They answered at once and followed him to become fishers of men.  Many are called to collaborate with Jesus closely in his work of building the kingdom of God.  It seems that few answer the call.  I imagine that fewer respond at once and with enthusiasm.  

The crisis of vocation in the Church is a mystery.  Why do few people want to respond to the call of Jesus to become fishers of men?  Why do people prefer to have temperamental, selfish bosses in their places of employment rather than Jesus who is the best of bosses?  Why should celibacy constitute an obstacle to answering the call of Christ to the priesthood when everybody knows that today one out of every two Christian marriages fail woefully, leaving behind them trails of unhappiness sometimes for life?  The psalmist prayed to God to show him the shortness of life so that he can gain wisdom of heart.  Why is it that in considering the call of Jesus, we are blinded to the truth of the brevity of this life and the eternity of everlasting life?

Lord Jesus, you are God.  You know all things.  You know the answer to all these questions.  You are the good Shepherd who has promised to provide all that your Church needs.  May your divine mercy be upon your Church and grant us numerous good vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Amen.

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"Then Jesus went home. Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had no time to eat.  When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because people were saying, “He's gone mad!” (Mark 3: 20 - 21 GNT).

Has anybody ever accused you of being crazy or a religious fanatic?

Jesus Christ our Lord Himself was considered "out of his mind?" (Mark 3: 21). By His relatives and friends. Jesus warned all His followers not to expect decent treatment from the world. Those who are committed to follow Him should expect anything and everything from the world.

Throughout the centuries, the lives of many saints have vindicated the prophecy of Jesus viz: the Apostles, St John of the Cross, St Joan of Arc to name but a few.

Are you prepared to pay the price of discipleship?  Jesus was prepared to pay any price for our salvation.

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"Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him...... that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach  and to have authority to drive out demons." (Mark 3: 13 - 14).

Jesus chose 12 ordinary men from a group of disciples first and foremost to be with Him, that means to be His companions and friends. As they become His close friends, they observe His life and habits. This will be critical when He is no longer with them.

Only after the Apostles have learned enough of His person and purpose did He send them out to preach.

Which comes first for you? To launch yourself into apostolic work or first to know about the Lord through prayer and study?

If you follow the right sequence, you don't need to worry about worldly qualifications. Read and mark this:
"And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory." (Romans 8: 30 NLT).

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"In God I trust; I shall not fear."

The above verse is part of Psalm 56 which David composed at the most dire moment of his life. Saul the King was hunting David to kill him. David and his wives, relatives, a small rag tag army were living in enemy country where they suspected he was the man who killed their hero Goliath. David had no choice but to trust God with all his heart, mind and life.

Do you know why God permits you to be fearful for your family, health, finances, job and future? So that like David, you can turn to Him to heal your fears. Abba Father, the loving and provident God never intended man to be independent and self-sufficient. We are fortunate that David had his moments of crisis and fear. Thanks to this divine providence, we have the incredible revelation in Psalm 56 on how to deal with fear. This is one of my favorite Psalms.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?.....
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.....
In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid.
"What can man do to me?" (Psalm 56: 3 - 4, 9 - 11).

"For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith." (1 John 5: 4).

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“My lord should not lose heart. Let your servant go and fight this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17: 32).

The above verse set the stage for the epic battle between David and Goliath. David was certainly inspired by God to take up this mission. Note David's reply when Saul tried to dismiss what seemed to him as childish presumption.

“The same Lord who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul answered David, “Go! the Lord will be with you.” (1 Samuel 17: 37).

Remember all that God has done for you. The memory and remembrance will be gold mine for you in the future battles.

As the two men joined battle, David said: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have insulted." (1 Samuel 17: 45).

Know who you are. Know who is on your side. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8: 31). I call this Checkmate!

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war;
My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me." (Psalm 144: 1 - 2).

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What do you think of the choice, the call and the anointing of David as King?

“Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.”  (1 Samuel 16: 11).

Note that David is the youngest of the 8 sons of Jesse. Jesse at first presented Eliab, first son, with the appearance of a General. "But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 7).

"Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David." (1 Samuel 16: 13).

God has found David His and anointed Him as King of Israel. In spite of the human failings of David, God did not reject him. Instead He said of David:

"He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock of my salvation!.....
Forever I will maintain my mercy for him; my covenant with him stands firm. " (Psalm 89: 27, 29).

David was especially chosen, called and anointed as a key stone in salvation history.

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“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15: 22)

These are the words of the Prophet Samuel to the Saul, King of Israel.
Is there any area in your life where you believe that hard work, feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and the imprisoned is a good substitute to simple obedience to God's command?

God says that disobedience to a commandment like "Keep Holy the Lord's Day" is a rebellion as heinous as witchcraft or idolatry. (Cf 1 Samuel 15: 23).

"Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, your burnt offerings are always before me.....
You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you! (Psalm 50: 8, 17).

"The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart." (Hebrews 4: 12).

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